UPDATED: Siedle, Raimondo Critic, to be Awarded $48M in SEC Record Whistleblower Case

Saturday, July 22, 2017


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Ted Siedle, slated to receive the biggest whistleblower award in U.S. history

GoLocal has learned that Ted Siedle, the Forbes columnist, critic of Gina Raimondo’s investment strategy in hedge funds, and sometimes GoLocal contributor, is in line to be awarded $48 million of more than $70 million in a record award by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission case.

The final numbers will not be finalized for approximately 60 days.

Siedle, reached by phone in Florida, refused to comment on the potential award and has not made any public comment on the record award. 

The Case

The case involves a total of six JP Morgan whistleblowers — one identified as former JP Morgan rep Johnny Burris and the other GoLocal has learned is Siedle. There are four other identified whistleblowers, but none of them are to receive awards as presently structured.

According to documents leaked on Thursday to the national financial press, “The Claims Review Staff preliminarily determined to recommend to the Commission that Claimant #1 and Claimant #2 voluntarily provided original information to the Commission that led to the successful enforcement…”

"Many times the government gets a bad rap," said Burris, one of the six whistleblowers, who provided a redacted copy of the SEC letter. "With this award, the SEC and the [Commodity Futures Trading Commission] have done the peoples' work and they should be commended for that,“ Burris told On Wall Street.

As a part of the government action, JPMorgan agreed to pay over $300 million in regulatory fines in 2016. 

CFTC is expected to make an additional monetary whistleblower awards in this case within the next month after the agency’s new regulations go into effect. That may increase the amount to the two award recipients.

Ryan White spokesperson of the SEC refused to confirm Burris and Siedle, "The agency has no comment."

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Governor Gina Raimondo

Raimondo Criticizes Siedle

Over the past three plus years, Siedle has repeatedly raised concerns about Raimondo’s management of the RI employees pension fund and has repeatedly said that any money saved by pension reform has been squandered in fees to hedge funds.

Raimondo dismissed Siedle's criticism from the onset - he is a columnist for Forbes and a former SEC investigator - she said he is an agenda driven “blogger.” 

The rivalry by Siedle and Raimondo goes back to when Raimondo was Treasurer and Siedle criticized her investment strategy which focused a higher proportion than most states in investment in alternative investment aka, hedge funds.

After GoLocal unveiled the issues raised by Siedle, the Providence Journal reported a few month later -- in October of 2013 that Raimondo said, “There is nothing new here (of a Siedle report). This is just a rehash of criticism we have seen from this person in the past ... He is making tens of thousands of dollars, paid by opponents of pension reform, to poke holes in me...and our pension reform efforts.″

On Thursday on GoLocal LIVE, then Governor Chafee criticized Raimondo for not only her investment strategies as Treasurer, but also her claims about her role in pension reform. "And my final issue [on pension reform] is performance," said Chafee. "Retirees were promised their COLA would come back when the fund reached a certain solvency -- and now the hedge funds [investments] pushed that out further. The investments were terrible with the rapaciously high fees. The retirees have to be livid,” Chafee said.

Earlier this year, now-Treasurer Seth Magaziner rejected Raimondo’s investment strategy and dramatically lowered the RI retirement’s system investment in hedge funds.

"We are moving away from the high-cost hedge funds that have failed to meet expectations while charging unacceptably high fees. Our new Back to Basics strategy will improve performance and reduce risk, providing a more secure future for Rhode Island public employees and all taxpayers,” said Magaziner. 

In one Forbes column, Siedle wrote about Raimondo, "The wreckage related to Raimondo’s failed stint as a small-time venture capitalist is finally out in the open for all Rhode Islanders to see.  The Point Judith II fund she pitched to the Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island (in which the pension risked $5 million) has returned a pathetic -1.1 percent over the past almost ten years—after paying her rich fees of 2.5 percent. If making money off your investors defines success, then Raimondo’s a superstar."

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SEC - record award

Largest Award Ever When Finalized

In 2014, the SEC announced the then-largest whistleblower award, when it announced an expected award of more than $30 million to a whistleblower who provided key original information that led to a successful SEC enforcement action. 

That award was then the largest made by the SEC’s whistleblower program to date and the fourth award to a whistleblower living in a foreign country, demonstrating the program’s international reach.

“This whistleblower came to us with information about an ongoing fraud that would have been very difficult to detect,” said Andrew Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement in 2014.  “This record-breaking award sends a strong message about our commitment to whistleblowers and the value they bring to law enforcement.”


Related Slideshow: RI Biz Winners and Flops - July 22, 2017

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Winner - Jobs

The June job numbers are for the most part very positive - the number of employed Rhode Islanders is now at its highest level since before the Great Recession. 

The caution is that wages have not kept pace. 

The number of unemployed RI residents was 23,300, up 400 from the May number of 22,900.

Over the year, the number of unemployed dropped by 6,800.

The number of employed RI residents was 533,300, up 400 from the May number of 532,900.

Over the year, the number of employed RI residents was up 10,700 from June 2016.

Unemployment Across the Country

The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in June 2017, up one-tenth of a percentage point from May and down half of a percentage point over the year.

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Winner - T.F. Green

The wins keep coming at T.F. Green Airport. On Tuesday, Frontier Airlines announced it will fly to six new cities from Providence starting this fall. Frontier will celebrate the new service with fares as low as $39* at flyfrontier.com.

The new cities from Providence are: Charlotte N.C.; Fort Myers, Fla.; Miami, Fla; New Orleans, LA; Tampa, Fla. and Raleigh N.C. Frontier will operate these new routes with Airbus A320 family aircraft. 

Iftikhar Ahmad, President and CEO for the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, said, “This is great news for our customers since these destinations are some of our top requested leisure and business markets.  Green Airport has (nearly) doubled the numbers of non-stops from 17, just a few months ago, to 33 with this announcement. We thank Frontier’s leadership team for increasing their presence at PVD with these additional flights and strengthening our partnership.”     

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Winner - Siedle

No one had a better week than Forbes columnist and forensic auditor Ted Siedle.

GoLocal has learned that Siedle, critic of Gina Raimondo’s investment strategy in hedge funds and GoLocal contributor, is in line to be awarded $48 million of more than $70 million in a record award by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission case.

The final numbers will not be finalized for approximately 60 days.

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Winner - Alex and Ani

2017 has been a very good year for Alex and Ani's Carolyn Rafaelian.

She showed off her newly restored Belcourt Castle to America's governors when she hosted one of the high profile RI events.

Early this year she scored the cover for Forbes' "The Richest Self-Made Women." As GoLocal reported

Forbes lists the top 60 self-made women, and Rafaelian comes in at #18 at $1 billion. Leading the list is Marjian Ilitch, age 84 of Little Caesars at $5.1 billion.

Oprah Winfrey is ranked #5 at $2.9 billion and Beyonce Knowles at #46 at $350 million.

The piece chronicles the growth of Alex and Ani and her involvement in everything from restoring Belcourt Castle to her vineyard in Little Compton.

As Forbes writes, “Rafaelian has invested many millions in the estate, including a complete renovation of the library. She also added solar paneling to the roof and, of course, restored Alva's (Vanderbilt’s) bedroom to its Gilded Age glory.”

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Winner - Upserve

Could Upserve be that bust out company?

Forget the incentives to bring in GE or Johnson & Johnson, just stand back and watch Angus Davis grow Upserve. Way back in 2014, Davis raised two rounds of $20 million. 

Now, he just announced he closed another big round of funding.

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Winner - Navigant

Three times is a charm. 

Navigant Credit Union – for the third consecutive year – was named Rhode Island’s “Best Place to Work” by Providence Business News.

Navigant Credit Union earned top honors – the #1 ranking in the “large company” category.

"“For more than 100 years, our top priority at Navigant Credit Union has been to treat our employees and our members like family. To be named the state’s Best Place to Work for three consecutive years is a testament to our company’s core values. We are incredibly honored to accept this award," said Navigant Credit Union President and CEO Gary E. Furtado.

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So much for rankings though, as one recent ranking from WalletHub score RI as the 47th ranked state to start a business and one from Inc. magazine claims Providence is #3 in the country. Hmmm. Is Providence better than the rest of the state? Or is one or both rankings flawed?

Rhode Island is one of the worst states in the country to start a business. And, it does not look like Governor Gina Raimondo's policies are having much impact.

According to a recent study completed by WalletHub, Rhode Island is the 4th worst state in the U.S. to start a business.

The rankings also show that RI is the second worst state in New England to start a business, ahead of only New Hampshire. Massachusetts is ranked as the best state to start a business in New England.

“Startups fail for different reasons, a “bad location” among the most common. Choosing the right state for a business is therefore crucial to its success. A state that provides the ideal conditions for business creation — access to cash, human capital and affordable office space, for instance — can help new ventures not only take off but also thrive,” said WalletHub.

A series of GoLocal investigative stories have unveiled that much of Rhode Island's economic development resources have gone to out of state companies.

Inc. magazine writes:

The State of Rhode Island has made major investments in entrepreneurship. In 2016 they attracted GE Digital, Johnson & Johnson, Virgin and a world renowned Cambridge Innovation Center--an accelerator for innovation enterprises.

Rhode Island has created college tuition incentives to attract new talent and used the existing talent of top nearby research institutions like Brown and Harvard to create an emerging Silicon Valley clone. USA Today ranked Brown #1 in the country for applied mathematics.

"We had to make connections to eds and meds, especially for existing companies," said Stefan Pryor, Secretary of Commerce at State of Rhode Island. "We have an Innovation Voucher Program. If a company is looking for R&D we'll pay for a college or university medical center to do that R&D research. We have made 22 of these arrangements so far and increase the funding year after year. It's helping to fuel the innovation economy."

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Flops - 1x Home Buyers

The City of Providence is ranked among the worst cities for first time home buyers.

According to a recent study completed by WalletHub, Providence ranks 218th out of 300 ranked cities in the United States.

Providence ranks at the near bottom for quality of life and affordability. Quality of life is scored on everything from crime to friendliness of drivers - see the methodology below.

“Buying a home for the first time is an exciting and important milestone for many Americans. As such, first-time home buyers must carefully consider a number of factors — what they want and need relative to what they can afford, for instance — before diving to the deep end of real estate,” said WalletHub

Providence Rankings

203rd Best - Affordability
140th Best - Real Estate Market
260th Best - Quality of Life

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Flop - Revenue

Maybe no one got worse news in the past couple of months than the print advertising business.

Earnings for first quarter for the newspaper and magazine industry showed the continued drop of print advertising revenue.

According to Borrell Associates - a media consulting company, new data show that 36% of existing magazine advertisers are planning to slash or completely eliminate their ad spend in the category. (See image)

Newspapers are not much better -- 30% plan to cut or eliminate.

The once powerful Gannett - owners of USA Today and hundreds of other papers -  reported revenue numbers which were fairly catastrophic. As Poynter reported, "...Gannett kicked off the reporting season for publicly traded companies. Acquisitions led to some revenue growth. But comparing same properties:

Print advertising revenues were down 17.7 percent compared to the first quarter of 2016.

Circulation revenues were down 8 percent."


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